Saying that she was “embarrassed” by an extremely critical report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser promised a swift response from the city.
The 72-page report, first obtained by The Washington Post, portrayed the D.C. Housing Authority as being in disarray.
It said that DCHA has failed to provide “decent, safe and sanitary” housing for residents and has the lowest occupancy rate of any large public housing authority in the nation.
“I want to be blunt: I am saddened by that report and embarrassed,” Bowser said during a news conference Wednesday. “We know that this is an issue that has been around in the District for a long time.”
Bowser claimed that her administration has made “significant local investments in public housing,” including putting $50 million toward DCHA in the city’s budget for the past three years, and said that she had previously instructed the Office of the Chief Financial Officer to conduct a “top-to-bottom” evaluation of DCHA properties in order to better determine where investments should be going.
“That important work will help guide our future capital improvements and ensure that assets can be managed more thoroughly,” Bowser said.
According to the report, there are dangerous conditions at DCHA properties, including violence, lead paint hazards, water damage and mold.
The housing authority’s director, Brenda Donald, has 60 days to respond to the findings.
“I want to say that I have complete faith in Brenda Donald’s leadership and her ability to oversee this,” Bowser said, adding that DCHA will be “100% responsive.”
The report has already led to criticism within the D.C. Council, with council member Elissa Silverman calling it a “blistering indictment” of the “dysfunctional” agency.
“This report is a wake-up call for urgent and immediate action,” Silverman said. “Every part of the agency needs reform.”
Silverman said she would introduce reform legislation that would give the council more oversight on the use of DCHA money and address the makeup of the authority’s board, which Silverman claimed “lacks members with housing finance and property management expertise.”